"So it goes."
Kurt Vonnegut may be my favorite writer and this memorable refrain from his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five perfectly sums up the Eddie Vanderdoes saga and Notre Dame's place in the whole mess. Sometimes crappy things are going to happen in life and all you can do is deal with it and move on.
Late Tuesday night reports began surfacing that 2013 freshman defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes from Placer, California was ruled eligible by the NCAA after winning his appeal after initially being denied by the college athletic governing body. If you're not familiar with the Vanderdoes situation it basically played out like this:
- 7.11.12- Vanderdoes verbals to Southern Cal
- 12.27.12- Vanderdoes decommits from USC
- 2.6.13- Vanderdoes signs letter of intent with Notre Dame
- 6.4.13- Vanderdoes does not show up for Notre Dame summer workouts
- 7.30.13- Vanderdoes ruled eligible to play at UCLA
That's the bare bones version of what happened but there are a lot of details to the story and sadly many of them are still not clear. Truthfully, it's the lack of clarity in this ordeal that is the most frustrating.
We've had to put up with mind-numbingly stupid articles from people in the media like Gregg Doyel who tried to paint Notre Dame as the problem and it was no big deal because the Irish could just snag some JUCO defensive tackle over the summer anyway. Yup, Notre Dame has been doing that all the time over the past 70 years, what an easy solution!
Elsewhere, this story was all about how Brian Kelly was a hypocrite for not letting Vanderdoes out of his letter of intent because the Irish coach had the University of Notre Dame give him nearly half of his newly signed 2010 salary so that he could pay off his buyout with Cincinnati. For some UCLA fans without common sense, this meant Notre Dame simply paid Kelly's Cincinnati buyout for free and this clearly meant the Irish coach had no accountability.
If an employer gave you money up front to pay off a debt and you then earned half your salary the rest of the year no one would agree that your company just kindly helped you out for free. But hey! Using twisted logic Brian Kelly is a bad guy and he makes a lot of money anyway so Vanderdoes should be released from his LOI.
In the end UCLA got what they wanted and Notre Dame swung and missed on a prospect who signed a letter of intent a mere 6 months ago. Don't expect a single soul to feel bad for the Irish. Instead, expect a lot of middle fingers directed towards South Bend.
So it goes.
Vanderdoes being able to play for UCLA this fall isn't that big of a deal if you separate it from the binding contract he signed. The Bruins aren't on Notre Dame's radar, we'll likely never cross paths, and Vanderdoes can have all the fun he wants playing "close to home." It never would have worked out at Notre Dame, he had to do what he thought was best, so good luck to him in the future.
It remains to be seen whether this decision by the NCAA will open the floodgates on players getting out of their future Letter of Intent that they sign. Maybe it will, or maybe it won't.
I do know that nothing smelled right about the situation right from the beginning.
There were a lot of rumors surrounding Vanderdoes' situation but the unofficial explanation was that he wanted to be closer to home to be near his ailing grandmother.
I'm sure Eddie's grandmother is sick and that he cares very much about her, but in the world of binding Letter of Intent's that explanation is terribly weak. Also, it wasn't just this defense that was feeble but more so the way in which it was presented to the public.
Did Vanderdoes not pass a class that was required by Notre Dame? If so, we'd have to swallow that setback; God knows it's happened often enough in recent times.
Did Vanderdoes have a child over the spring that changed his living decisions? Such a big moment would be a lot more understandable.
But a sick grandmother?
Back in June the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson, effectively the Vanderdoes' personal media moutpiece, swooped in on the case and told the world:
"Hey, don't worry the Vanderdoes family will come out with its reason for Eddie not attending Notre Dame."
So we waited.
And waited a little longer.
"Don't worry everyone will understand once the Vanderdoes family comes out with their reason," Davidson told the world.
When Vanderdoes made it "official" that he wouldn't be attending Notre Dame but UCLA instead it was via a text sent to...guess who? Joe Davidson! The big news that would make us all understand the situation turned out to be:
Vanderdoes did not shed any light on what went wrong with Notre Dame. He suggested that the switch to UCLA is primarily because of a desire to remain close to family.
That's a great way to get the world to understand!
Now, Vanderdoes may want to protect his privacy but the way this was handled isn't doing his case any favors. He dangled some devastating news in front of everyone and then never gave an official reason for his switch.
The only thing that came out were mysterious reports from "sources" that Vanderdoes' grandmother took ill shortly after National Signing Day and he wanted to be closer to home because of her illness. Why didn't Eddie come out and say so?
You can't blame anyone for thinking there's a lot of BS going on here.
Perhaps on Tuesday night as reports surfaced that Vanderdoes would be eligible this fall we'd find some clarity with the situation? Let's ask Joe Davidson!
Efforts to reach the family have not been successful.
Ah, of course not!
You know what Davidson did write up in last night's column?
The Vanderdoes-Notre Dame union got off to a ominous start. Vanderdoes and his family made it abundantly clear with Notre Dame coaches that they did not want his name released with other Irish signees in the early morning hours on National Signing Day. Vanderdoes wanted to make his announcement on campus later in the afternoon in a signing ceremony that included three classmates and scores of family, friends, teachers and members of the community.
Notre Dame released his name anyway, which quickly hit the national media feeds, and effectively blowing the Vanderdoes cover. Notre Dame then backtracked by suggesting it was a clerical error.
So for the hundredth time while remaining in contact with the Vanderdoes family and being their mouthpiece this journalist didn't come up with anything new but floated the clerical error story again.
Notre Dame did not have an interview set up with Vanderdoes. He was not brought up during the school's day-long coverage on National Signing Day. Instead, his name was listed BY MISTAKE on a roster handed out that morning and it was quickly corrected. Oh, the horror!
We'll probably never learn what really happened here but it's pretty clear that this was completely amateur hour from Davidson and the Vanderdoes family. I don't wish any ill will on the young player and I'm sure he is concerned about his grandmother, but this has stunk to high heaven from day one.
You'll pardon me if I find the grandma excuse highly questionable. How could I not? Vanderdoes has had plenty of opportunities to clear the air and explain his side of the story, but instead he's led everyone toward a bridge to nowhere while hiding behind a journalist who's been more than happy to play along.
So it goes.
STATEMENT FROM BRIAN KELLY:
"While I disagree with yesterday's decision by the NCAA National Letter of Intent Appeals Committee to reverse its original ruling and grant Eddie Vanderdoes a complete release from his NLI, I understand and respect the entire appeal process. However, this result does not change my opinion concerning the importance of protecting the integrity of the NLI program, nor will it change our approach to the process going forward."